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‘It’s been a joy ride’

Match enters ninth year as graduation nears

“Two peas in a pod,” is how Big Brother Abdon Perez describes his friendship with his Little Brother Jaidyn. The two have the same interest in sports, love to barbeque, and even dress alike some days.

The friendship, which started when Jaidyn was in fourth grade, is entering its ninth year. While the pair knows their match will formally close in the Big Brothers Big Sisters’ system when Jaidyn graduates from high school next spring, they say it will always remain open for them.

Abdon and Jaidyn started as a school-based match and spent time together every Friday during the school year until Jaidyn finished fifth grade. At that time, they transitioned to a community-based match so they could continue their friendship as Jaidyn went into middle school.

Their friendship never faltered and took on an even more important role early in Jaidyn’s high school career. He did not do well in his freshman year: he was academically ineligible to play football and even considered dropping out. A couple of weeks into his sophomore year though, after talking with Abdon and a school counselor he admires, Jaidyn decided to dedicate himself to academics. His grades improved and he was happy to be able to rejoin the football team.

Now, Jaidyn has his sights set on college and talks with Abdon about where he might continue his education to become either a physical or sports therapist. “It motivates me,” Jaidyn says.

Helping a child navigate through life was Abdon’s biggest motivation for becoming a Big Brother and he says it’s been very rewarding. “It’s a journey to see somebody go from fourth grade to him not wanting to go to school until now as he’s entering his senior year of high school,” he says. “The small things you do for a child can have a huge impact.”

A husband and father of two teenage girls, Abdon felt it important to incorporate Jaidyn into his family whenever possible. Often, Jaidyn goes to their house to swim, play basketball in the pool, barbeque, play Wii, and just hang out. “We are a family. Will always be a family,” Abdon says. “We’re going to be lifelong friends. We all have his back.”

When asked what he’s learned from Abdon, Jaidyn says he’s learned respect and to be caring but, most of all, “Just be yourself.”

As for his thoughts on his long-time match, Jaidyn smiles and says, “It’s been a joy ride.”